If there were a way to prevent cancer, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d definitely try it, right? Turns out, there are plenty of ways to reduce your risk of developing the disease, which affects 1.6 million new Americans every year. The thing is, many people just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t use them.
Researchers estimate that lifestyle factorsÃ¢â‚¬”like smoking, eating poorly, not getting enough exercise, and being overweightÃ¢â‚¬”will contribute to nearly a third of the new cancer cases expected in 2013, according to an annual report recently released by the American Cancer Society (ACS). In other words, healthier choices could keep as many as 553,000 people cancer-free this year.
Changing your behavior sounds pretty simple compared to, say, finding a cure for cancer. And yet, Americans continue to make poor health decisions year after year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We pick up these behaviors during our younger years, when we arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really thinking about the consequences,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Suzanne OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill, PhD, assistant professor and health psychologist at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult to connect them with outcomes that may or may not happen decades from now. And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy to convince yourself that you can quit later.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Worse yet, a lot of unhealthy behaviorsÃ¢â‚¬“like smoking a cigarette or lying out in the sunÃ¢â‚¬”provide immediate rewards that reinforce the bad habit, says OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill. But healthy behaviors donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always feel as great right away.
It might not be easy to end unhealthy tendencies, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s certainly worth the effort. Make these lifestyle tweaks ASAP to cut your cancer risk:
Stop smoking Researchers estimate that 174,100 people will die from cancers related to smoking in 2013. If you currently light up, quit as soon as possible, suggests Vilma Cokkinides, PhD, strategic director of risk factors and screening for the American Cancer Society. The earlier you nix the habit, the longer youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll live, she says. And donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about ballooning as soon as you quit. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how to stomp out the habit without gaining weight.
Manage your weightÃ¢â‚¬”starting NOW Weight is a factor in as many as 20 percent of cancer-related deaths, according to ACS report. Of course, shedding pounds is easier said than done. Find out what your healthy weight is, then take action with these weight loss tips that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t suck.
Wear SPF 15 or higher every day ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also a good idea to wear sun-protective clothing when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re outside for extended periods of timeÃ¢â‚¬”especially in the summer, says Cokkinides. And of course, never, ever visit a tanning salon. Thirty-three states now regulate the indoor tanning industry, and with good reason: Skin cancer is almost a sure thing for people who fake bake and burn, according to a 2010 University of Minnesota study. Find the best sunscreen for your skin type.
Cut way back on processed foods Cokkinides suggests eating like your life depends on it because, well, it does. The fewer processed foods and fatty meats you consume, the less likely youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be to develop cancer. Load up on plants and lean proteins instead. You can get started with these seven ways to sneak more produce into your diet.
Move more While researchers donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know exactly how much exercise is necessary to ward off cancer, they recommend shooting for 150 minutes of hard-core exercise per week, or up to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity movement. Physical activity can reduce your risk of breast, colon, endometrial, and prostate cancerÃ¢â‚¬”and help fend off weight-related cancers, too, according to the ACS report.
Get the HPV vaccine If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re 26 or younger (the age until which the HPV vaccine has been proven effective), ask your doc about getting this. Since HPV contributes to 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, according to the ACS report, taking this step to protect yourself is a no-brainer.
Get regular health screenings Unfortunately, even the healthiest lifestyle wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make you totally immune to cancer. Early detection helps people maximize their odds of survival. The thing is, between breast exams, skin exams, pap smears, STD tests, mammograms, and colonoscopies, it can be hard to stay on top of the screenings you need. Bookmark this fool-proof guide to remember what needs to be checked when.
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